Pumping iron: an addiction?

  • By Team TDO

Can body building turn into an addiction? Kind of difficult to put those healthy muscles bound bods in the same hallowed category as a crack junkie, but apparently over exercising is also an addiction and compulsion for some people.

Psychiatrists haven’t given it the status of a full-fledged addiction yet, maybe because there hasn’t been a large number of cases come up enough to warrant their attention.

But David Smith, a lecturer in sports psychology at Chester College, who has interviewed hundreds of bodybuilders in gyms across the UK, is certain that some body builders get obsessive about weight training and can actually get hooked bad enough to ignore work, family and leisure.

This phenomenon is not just restricted to weight training, but can be observed in athletes and sportspersons as well. May be the reason behind this is poor self-esteem which drives them to improve their body image. Due to overtraining in any kind of exercise, they are actually doing their immune system great damage. Sometimes due to intensive workouts, the body releases Beta Endorphins (substances that have analgesic and addictive effect) to deal with the stress and this can be the high that these addicts chase.

After all, addiction is all about getting high, right? High on cocaine or high on Beta Endorphins, the feel good feeling is the same. The most obvious symptoms are that these people cannot stay away from their exercise regimen and feel irritable if for some reason they can’t make it to the gym. Some exercisers are so far gone that they don’t even accept promotions from fear that additional responsibility will take them away from their favorite high. They even exercise when they are sick which could further worsen their condition. Another horrific condition is ‘reverse anorexia’ wherein no matter how big the muscles develop, the owner is never happy about its size and shape, and keeps training harder and harder. It is characterized by the desperate desire to gain more muscle mass.

It just goes against the very grain of body building, exercise and fitness doesn’t it? So, one can be physically fit with a terrific body, but if he is binging on those feel good endorphins and ruining his heath in the long run, then is that real fitness? Real fitness is when a person understands his body’s needs for exercise, nutrition, rest and relaxation. However, there is one exercise which will never let them down no matter how much they overdo it: exercising discretion!